Project to raise awareness of mental health in civic schools

Drive will reach out to three lakh children over next five years

An initiative aims to raise awareness of mental health and early intervention among children in the city’s civic-run schools.

Over the next five years, the Smiling Schools Project by non-profit organisation Project Mumbai will reach out to nearly three lakh children from Classes V to VIII. The initiative will empower children to deal with stress, emotional upheaval, bullying and forge better teacher-student and peer relationships.

According to the World Health Organization, untreated mental health issues in children and adolescents severely influence their development, educational attainments and potential to lead productive lives.

Training teachers

Dr. Kersi Chavda, psychiatrist and member of the project’s advisory board, said early intervention in schools is crucial. He said, “The idea is to train teachers in picking signs of suicidal tendency, depression, learning disability or other academic issues. We don’t expect them to know everything. But we will equip them to identify the signs.” He said the training will begin in around two weeks.

In its first year, the project will reach out to nearly 150 schools, more than 600 teaching staff, 12,000 students and their parents, and about 50 counsellors. At the end of its course, the project will have covered nearly 1,200 schools, and over three lakh students, parents, and staff members.

Growing concern

Shishir Joshi, CEO and founder, Project Mumbai, said, “Mental wellness is a growing concern and we are glad this is gradually becoming a part of everyday conversation. Increased awareness will only mean more teachers and parents come to accept this as a challenge that needs to be addressed. This will directly, and positively, impact children and their growth.” Mr. Joshi said the project will be expanded to the Thane, Navi Mumbai and other municipal corporations in the Mumbai Metropolitan Region.

Dr. Henal Shah, psychiatrist at Nair Hospital and chairperson of the Indian Psychiatric Society’s school mental health initiative, said, “The thrust of the project is promoting mental health. We don’t want to simply focus on mental illnesses and identifying disorders. We will be taking a holistic approach by covering aspects like safety, resilience and how to cope.”

Besides the advisory board, the project will be led by partners like Tata Institute of Social Sciences’ School Initiative for Mental Health Advocacy, Neerja Birla’s MPower, Poddar Foundation, Don Bosco’s Prafulta Counselling Center, Teach For India, Larsen & Toubro, Institute for Exceptional Children, United Way Mumbai and Apnishala.

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Printable version | May 30, 2020 5:26:59 PM |

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